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COVID-19: All the latest LIVE worldwide updates - today's updates are also on our Portal page, here)

Coronavirus - 12th March 2021


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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 13:35

Summary for Friday, 12th March

  • Covid infection levels continuing to drop in England and Wales but levelling off in Scotland and Northern Ireland - ONS
  • Overall one in 280 people in the UK thought to be infected - down from one in 230 the week before
  • UK R number now between 0.6 and 0.8, down from 0.7-0.9 last week, meaning the epidemic is shrinking faster
  • Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford says situation "steadily improving" as he announces detailed timetable for easing lockdown
  • Bulgaria is latest country to pause use of AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution after reports of some people developing blood clots
  • The WHO is to investigate those cases but says the vaccination can continue to be given in the meantime
  • Italy expected to impose national lockdown over Easter weekend and restrict internal travel from Monday
  • In Wales from Saturday 13 March, four people from two different households will be able to meet up outdoors to socialise, including in gardens
  • Welsh hairdressers can open from Monday but non-essential retail remains closed until 12 April, disappointing businesses who had hoped to open sooner
  • Scotland also now allowing four adults from two households to meet outside

Welcome to today’s live coverage. We’ll be bringing you updates on the pandemic throughout the day. Here’s a quick look at some of the main headlines to get you started:

  • Wales is due to set out plans for a phased end to lockdown later today, starting with a relaxation on outdoor socialising. But the reopening of non-essential retail - expected to be part of the early stages of easing the rules - is now not due until 12 April
  • Scotland has relaxed its rules on socialising outdoors , with four adults from two households now able to meet outside in public places and in gardens
  • Organisers of a vigil for Sarah Everard, who is believed to have been murdered as she walked home in South London, have launched a legal action to allow the event to go ahead. They are challenging the police interpretation of coronavirus regulations after being told they could face fines of £10,000
  • US President Joe Biden has set 4 July as a target date for “independence” from the virus as he announced he would order states to make vaccines available to all adults by 1 May
  • Car insurance claims plummeted last year by 19% as people stayed home in the pandemic , figures show. But the average price paid by consumers for insurance has dropped by just 1%, with insurers saying claims are just one of the costs they face in supporting customers
  • Increased social isolation during the pandemic has driven 3.2 million households to acquire a pet , the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association said. Young people are the main drivers of the trend, but there are concerns about animal welfare
  • Thailand has become the latest country to delay the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots - although the European Medicines Agency says there is no evidence the vaccine is the cause

Latest across Europe

  • After Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, France and Austria have said they will continue to use it. Austria, along with four other countries, stopped using doses from one batch after a woman died, but said there was no reason to suspend the vaccine entirely. The European Union’s EMA medicines regulator says there is no indication it leads to an increased risk of blood clots.
  • The pandemic situation is tense and worrying in the greater Paris region of France, says Health Minister Olivier Véran. "Every twelve minutes night and day, a Parisian is admitted to an intensive care bed,” he says.
  • As many as 12 regions in Italy could be declared “red zones” today with severe restrictions imposed from Monday. Bars and restaurants in those areas are set to be shut and students will return to online learning.
  • Portugal's prime minister, António Costa, has detailed a timetable for a "drip-by-drip" easing of a two-month lockdown on the mainland from Monday. Remote working will remain compulsory but creches, kindergartens and primary schools will reopen, as well as hairdressers, bookshops and car dealers. Next month, smaller shops and museums can reopen and cafes and restaurants can serve outdoors.
  • Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel have tested positive for Covid but are said to be showing minor symptoms. They have gone into isolation with their two children Princess Estelle and Prince Oscar.

UK economy shrank by 2.9% as third lockdown came into force

New figures from the Office of National Statistics show the UK economy shrank by 2.9% in January as the third lockdown came into force.
Overall the economy is 9% smaller than it was before the start of the pandemic.
January's fall was smaller than some had expected, but the ONS said it was still a "notable hit".
Retailers, restaurants and services such as hairdressers were all forced to close when the latest lockdown came into effect.

What are the plans for reopening in Wales?

Wales is due to announce its detailed plan to ease lockdown at lunchtime today. It’s expected to be a phased relaxation, with the “stay home” advice replaced by “stay local”.
Here’s the expected timetable:
From Saturday 13 March

  • "Stay at home" will become "stay local"
  • Four people from two different households can meet up outdoors to socialise, including in gardens - children are excluded from the number
  • Outdoor sports facilities such for golf, tennis and basketball will be able to reopen
  • Designated solo visitors can enter care homes

From Monday 15 March

  • All primary school children and those in qualifications years can return to class
  • Schools will have flexibility to bring back year 10 and 12 pupils and more students will return to colleges
  • Hairdressers and barbers can reopen - for appointments only

From Monday 22 March

  • Gradual easing of non-essential shopping and non-essential aisles in supermarkets
  • Garden centres to reopen

From Saturday 27 March

  • Self-contained accommodation in Wales will be able to reopen provided case rates remain low

From 12 April

  • All shops will be able to open - the same date as in England.

Welsh holiday homes to reopen for Easter - but not for the English

The tourism industry in Wales will begin reopening in time for Easter, with First Minister Mark Drakeford saying he hopes people will be able to book “self-contained accommodation” by then.
But Drakeford tells BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that people in England will not be able to go on holiday in Wales at that point.
He says that because Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for easing lockdown does not permit overnight stays away from home by that stage, it will not be allowed.
“If it won’t be safe to stay overnight in England, then obviously it would not be safe for people to travel into Wales,” he says. The first minister says allowing people from two households to socialise in gardens will be a “big step” for Wales.
“For many families that will allow grandparents to see grandchildren again and it’s a sign that cautiously, carefully and step by step, we’re now on the journey of reopening Welsh society,” he says.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 13:41

What are Scotland's new rules on meeting outdoors?

Scotland has moved its plans forward for relaxing rules on outdoor socialising .
Previously, the Scottish government had said it was unlikely to change the rules before 15 March, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the nation was able to make "modest" changes because of its progress in tackling the virus.
So what is allowed now?

  • Up to four adults from two different households can now meet in any outdoor space - including in private gardens - an increase from two adults from two households
  • Four young people aged 12 to 17 can also meet even if they are all from different households
  • People can enter each other's homes to reach the back garden or to use the toilet

Scotland is considering further speeding up its exit plan from lockdown, which currently envisages the stay at home restrictions being lifted in early April

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 13:47

What's the road map for lifting lockdown in England?

As we've been hearing, the rules on meeting people outdoors in Scotland have been relaxed today , while in Wales restrictions are also being eased tomorrow .
Each devolved nation has the power to set their own coronavirus rules so the road map out of lockdown varies for different parts of the UK.
In England, two people from different households can already meet outside for recreation. But bigger groups of up to six people or two households will not be able to meet outside until 29 March.
You can read more about how the lockdown is being eased in England here

Welsh hairdressers prepare for 'overgrown and scary haircuts'

When the nation's latest plans for easing lockdown are revealed at lunchtime, Wales is expected to be the first part of the UK to reopen hairdressers and barbers.
To prevent queues, they will be required to offer an appointment-only system from Monday 15 March - just as they did during last summer's reopening.
But that's not likely to present a problem, since some salons report having waiting lists of up to 350 people ready to book and get their lockdown locks chopped off.
Vicky Lewis, who owns Vicki's Salon and Kidz Cutz in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, said she was "desperate" to get back to work.
She said she was looking forward to tackling the same sort of "overgrown and scary haircuts" she dealt with after the first lockdown.

RSC to resume outdoor performances over the summer

The Royal Shakespeare Company is set to resume plays for live audiences over the summer in a specially constructed "Garden Theatre".
A performance area, designed to be Covid-safe, is planned for Stratford-upon-Avon's Swan Gardens, a site overlooked by the main performance venue.
The RSC is to resume its live programme with The Comedy of Errors, which was postponed when its venues closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Outdoor theatres in England will be able to reopen from 17 May at the earliest, as part of the government's road map for easing lockdown .
Read more .

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 13:49

Thailand delays AstraZeneca jab rollout

Thailand has delayed the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine over reports of blood clots - despite there being no evidence of the jab causing these.
The country's prime minister was due to kick off the country's vaccination drive by getting the jab on Friday - but this his has now been halted.
The delay comes after a number of countries, including Denmark and Norway, suspended the use of the jab.
Around five million Europeans have already received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and about 30 cases of reported "thromboembolic events" - or developing blood clots - have been reported.
The European Medicines Agency said on Thursday that there was no indication the jab was causing the blood clots, adding that its "benefits continue to outweigh its risks".
Read more .

Portugal still recommends Oxford-AstraZeneca jab

Alison Roberts - Portugal Correspondent, Lisbon
The benefits of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 continue to outweigh any risk it poses to patients, Portugal's medicines regulator Infarmed has said.
The regulator is maintaining its existing recommendations on the jab, after several other European countries suspended its use .
In a statement on Thursday night, referring to fears over cases of blood clots in vaccinated individuals, it said preliminary results suggested "no causal relationship between the administration of this vaccine and these events".
It stressed that the regulator would, along with the European Medicines Agency (EMA), continue to monitor the situation and update recommendations when necessary.
As we have reported, the EMA itself earlier issued an assurance that, for now, there is no evidence of an increased risk of blood clotting in people given the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Wednesday, Portugal's national health authority, the DGS, also announced that the jab could be given to people of all ages, rather than only those aged under 65.

Irish Republic recommends Oxford-AstraZeneca jab for over-70s

Vaccine experts in the Republic of Ireland have recommended the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the over-70s , saying there should be no delay in its use.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) had previously only approved the vaccine for people under 65, in common with some other European countries, amid concerns about the data for its efficacy in older people.
Countries such as France and Germany have also now revised their policies and approved the vaccine for all age groups.
About 500,000 people in Ireland in the over-70 age group are yet to be vaccinated, while 100,000 have received at least one dose.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:39

Covid transmission drops 30% after one vaccine dose - study

Transmission of Covid-19 drops by at least 30% after a person has one dose of a vaccine, a new study suggests.
Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow monitored 300,000 NHS workers between 8 December - the first day of vaccination in Scotland - and 3 March.
The researchers looked at the records of people who lived with vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers, finding the workers who had had one dose were at least 30% less likely to have passed the virus on.
Given that people living with healthcare workers could also catch the virus from other sources, researchers say the 30% figure is a low estimate.
Those who had had both doses of vaccine were found to have been at least 54% less likely to have transmitted the virus.

Isle of Man suspends passenger ferry over possible Covid exposure

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Two crew members were called by contact tracers

Passenger ferry services to the Isle of Man have been suspended for 24 hours after two crew members were potentially exposed to Covid-19.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company said "safety and welfare" was its "top priority" after the two members of crew were called by contact tracers.
The vaccination of the island's air and sea crews was accelerated after a cluster of Covid-19 cases was linked to a member of the ferry crew.
It led to a surge in coronavirus cases and prompted the island to enter its third lockdown on 3 March.There are now 644 patients with the virus.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:42

When will shops open in Wales?

There had been hopes that today's review of Wales's coronavirus restrictions would allow non-essential retailers to open.
But it seems shoppers will have to wait a little longer, with First Minister Mark Drakeford set to announce a 12 April reopening date at the review this lunchtime.
Garden centres will be able to open a bit earlier, from 22 March.
The Welsh Government says it is making an extra £150m available to support businesses affected by ongoing restrictions.
But Sara Jones, head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said the delayed reopening of shops was "deeply frustrating" with the industry losing £100m every week during lockdown.
She said at the last review Drakeford "opened the door" for a possible reopening on Monday and said many stores had invested in stock and staff in anticipation of that.

Bulgaria suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Bulgaria has became the latest country to pause using AstraZeneca's jab after reports of people getting blood clots after receiving a dose.
There is no evidence of a link between the vaccine and the clots.
On Thursday Thailand said it was halting its roll-out and cancelled a planned jab for the prime minister. Denmark, Iceland and Norway have also suspended the vaccine for the time being.
But other countries, including Germany, Australia and Mexico have said they will continue using AstraZeneca, saying there are no safety concerns.
Speaking in the past few minutes, Germany's health minister has said he "regrets" the suspension by other countries.
Of around 5 million people in Europe who have been given the jab, there have been 30 cases of blood clots - or "thromboembolic events" - developing.
The World Health Organization has said in the past hour that suspensions are unnecessary - but a committee is looking into the issue. It called AstraZeneca's Covid jab an "excellent vaccine".
AstraZeneca said the drug's safety had been studied extensively in clinical trials.
Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, has asked the European Medicines Agency to "dismiss all doubts about its safety" before rollout is resumed.
Many countries have a number of vaccines available to them, so pausing the use of AstraZeneca does not stop innoculation programmes going ahead.

Analysis: Safety first approach for vaccine rollout

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
While vast numbers of people are being vaccinated at pace around the world, some of them will still get sick with other things unrelated to the vaccine.
These pauses for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are not because it is unsafe to give. It’s to allow time for experts to explore why a small number of people who were recently given the shot also developed blood clots.
When an illness occurs shortly after vaccination, it is right to question whether the shot might have contributed in any way.
There is no indication or evidence, however, that the vaccine was linked or responsible.
In the UK, more than 11 million people have already received at least one dose of the vaccine and there has been no sign of excess deaths or blood clots occurring. Europe’s drug regulator has also backed the vaccine, saying its benefits are clear. Covid can be deadly and vaccination saves lives.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:45

Breaking News

One in 270 people infected with virus in England

Levels of coronavirus infections in England and Wales have continued to fall, data released today from the Office for National Statistics shows.
The figures, for the seven days up to 6 March, reveal around one in 270 people had the virus in England. That's down from around one in 220 the week before.
In Wales, the figure is about one in 365 - also a decrease.
However in Scotland and Northern Ireland the figure has levelled off. It is about one in 320 in Scotland and in Northern Ireland it's one in 310.
The ONS survey is based on tests from people in the community, regardless of whether or not they had symptoms.

Scotland announces national minute's silence on 23 March

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman begins the Scottish government briefing by announcing a national minute's silence on 23 March, which will be a year since the nation first went into lockdown.
She says today is also the anniversary of the first person to die of Covid-19 in Scotland and the government has been discussing ways to commemorate the lost lives.
"In every corner of our nation this pandemic has brought grief and hardship," she says, adding that further plans for commemoration will follow shortly.
Freeman says 17 more deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test to 7,500.
Scotland also recorded another 682 positive tests.

Wales confirms its lockdown easing dates

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has been setting out the lockdown easing plan.
He confirms that, from Saturday 13 March:

  • the "stay at home" rule will be replaced with "stay local" guidance
  • four people from two households can meet outside, including in gardens
  • outdoor facilities for sport can reopen
  • indoor visits in care homes will be allowed for a single visitor

Monday 15 March:

  • all primary age and secondary school pupils sitting exams will return to face-to-face learning. Schools will have flexibility to bring Year 10 and 12 pupils back
  • schools will also have flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils
  • hairdressers and barbers will reopen for appointment only

Monday 22 March:

  • phased reopening of non-essential retail, starting with lifting restrictions on what the shops that are currently open can sell
  • Garden centres will reopen

And Drakeford said if the public health situation continues to improve, from Saturday 27 March:

  • lift the "stay local"
  • begin the process of opening up tourism, starting with self-contained accommodation

Monday 12 April:

  • all pupils will return after the Easter break
  • all close contact services will reopen
  • all non-essential shops will be able to reopen, the same date as in England

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:48

What restrictions will there be on holidays in Wales?

Mark Drakeford is asked what travel restrictions might still be in place when self-contained accommodation in Wales is allowed to reopen from 27 March.
He says by that date the government hopes to be able to lift the "stay local" guidance so people can travel to go on holiday.
However, people will only be able to stay with people from their own household.
He also stresses that travel restrictions will remain in place for people in England and accommodation owners should not take bookings from outside Wales over Easter.
Drakeford adds that from the second half of April, his government will consider allowing greater household contact, including potentially indoor meeting.
Read more here.

Scotland's reopening must have 'reverse gear' if needed

The Scottish government’s national clinical director Jason Leitch tells the briefing that until Monday "everything was looking good" with the nation's progress out of lockdown.
Since then, cases have risen over the last few days, although "not dramatically", he says.
He says that is why they need to reopen slowly and carefully, taking three weeks to examine the effect of each stage.
And Leitch says the rise in cases this week is why Scotland has to "have a reverse gear" in case it needs to stop a bigger increase in infections.

Welsh first minister does not rule out another lockdown

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford is asked by Wales Online about his fears of another wave of coronavirus in late summer. The vaccine might mean a spike of cases would not necessarily mean a spike in deaths - so what criteria will he use to decide about measures, and would he rule out another lockdown?
Drakeford says "we will always take into account a basket of measures" and Wales does not have a "mechanistic approach".
"I can envisage a position in which it will be possible to cope with a slightly higher rate of transmission in the community, if that wasn't driving large numbers of people into hospital," he says.
"We're way off that yet," he says, saying six in 10 people still need their first dose of a vaccine.
And even when everybody has been vaccinated, "we will have to watch very carefully the way in which the Kent variant actually behaves as we begin to lift restrictions," he says.
He adds that nobody wants to go back into a lengthy lockdown - but "nobody in my position would in a responsible way say that we would rule out doing the right thing depending upon the circumstances we had to face at the time".

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:51

Italy 'to go into lockdown for Easter'

Italy will be placed under a new national lockdown from 3 April to 5 April during Easter weekend celebrations, reports Reuters news agency.
Only essential shops will be allowed to open, and people must stay at home except for work, health or emergency reasons.
The draft decree seen by Reuters also says that from Monday, movement between towns in most of the country will be restricted and restaurants and bars will close.
Several regions, including Lombardy in the north and Calabria in the south will join other areas designated as "red zones", where risks are highest.
The government is fighting to control a wave of infection. Italy reported almost 26,000 new Covid-19 cases and 373 deaths on Thursday.

Central and eastern Europe infection spike continues

A spike in infection in central and eastern Europe is showing no signs of falling. Poland and Hungary are seeing record high cases of Covid-19, while the Czech Republic and neighbouring Slovakia have some of the highest death rates per head of population in the world.
In Poland new infections have hit levels not seen since the second wave peaked in November, reports our correspondent, Adam Easton.
Shopping centres, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities have been or are being closed in the four worst hit provinces, including the capital Warsaw, he explains.
Central European countries are also experiencing vaccine supply delays and some, like Hungary and Slovakia, have bought Russian or Chinese jabs that haven’t been approved by the EU to try to accelerate their rollout.

Infections may be rising in parts of England - ONS

About 231,400 people in the community had coronavirus in the week up to 6 March , data from the Office of National Statistics suggests.
Although cases continue to fall, in some areas the rate of decline has started to slow - and in a few, cases may even be increasing slightly.
The ONS urged caution in over-interpreting small changes in the data.
But it said there were early signs of a possible increase in the percentage of people testing positive in the South East and South West of England.
In Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands, the trend is uncertain, it said.
But it said north-east and north-west England, East Midlands, East of England and London had seen a fall in infection rates.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:53

Breaking News

R number in UK now between 0.6 and 0.8

The UK's coronavirus R number - which is the number of people on average that one infected person is likely to pass the virus onto - is now between 0.6 and 0.8.
That's according to the latest government figures released on Friday.
It means that, on average, every 10 people with the virus will infect between six and eight other people.
Last week, the R number was between 0.7 and 0.9, so it's good news that this week the number is lower.
Today's figures also show the latest growth rate is between minus 7% and minus 4%, which means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 4% and 7% every day.

Wales opens up and Italy heads for lockdown - lunchtime round-up

If you're just joining us, here's a look at the main stories from across the UK so far today:

  • First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford says the situation is "steadily improving" - with the nation seeing the lowest infection rates since mid-September. He confirmed that from Saturday the "stay at home" rule will be replaced with guidance to "stay local" , and rules on outdoor socialising will be relaxed.
  • A planned reopening of Wales's tourism industry could be halted if holiday companies take bookings from people outside Wales , Drakeford also said. The Westminster government has not approved overnight stays away from home for those in England until at least 12 April, but accommodation in Wales can open from 27 March.
  • Scotland has begun to relax its rules on meeting others outside and in private gardens today . And on the anniversary that the nation recorded its first coronavirus death, a national minute's silence was announced for 23 March.
  • Italy will head into a new national lockdown over the Easter weekend, the Reuters news agency has reported. From Monday, movement between towns will be restricted and restaurants and bars will close, according to a draft decree.
  • Organisers of a vigil following the disappearance of Sarah Everard are going to the High Court to challenge police claims that the event would be unlawful . Downing Street says the PM understands the "strength of feeling" but has urged people to follow the rules on gatherings.
  • About one in 280 people in the UK is infected with the virus , data from the Office for National Statistics suggests. The ONS said there were signs that the decrease in cases was levelling off in some areas, or possibly even rising.
  • And the World Health Organization has said there is no reason to stop using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and no indication it has caused blood clots. Bulgaria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Thailand have paused their rollouts after about 30 cases of people developing clots across Europe. The EU's medicines regulator also said there was no indication or evidence that the vaccine was responsible.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:57

Fresh lockdown for Indian city Nagpur

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Nagpur in western India is to be the first major city in the country to return to a complete lockdown, starting on 15 March.
The restrictions will last for a week and will close all but essential services such as hospitals and grocery shops. Police have been told to impose a strict curfew.
Maharashtra state, where Nagpur is located, has always been a Covid hotspot, with the highest number of active and confirmed cases in India.
India has recorded more than 11 million cases and 157,000 deaths so far.
Caseloads have declined sharply in recent months across the country, but six states, including Maharashtra, have been reporting a fresh surge.
Read more about the lockdown.

'It's been a fight, I tell you'

Dickie Bird - the Yorkshire icon and former cricket umpire - has been shielding on his own for nearly year.
The 88-year-old told the BBC about how lonely it's been - but said exercise has been the key to keeping up his spirits during lockdown.
He does an hour of exercise in the garden each day, then goes for a walk for an hour and a half.
"It's been really hard," he says. "If you stick in the house and keep looking at the four walls and just watching television all day, you could go mentally ill."

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 21:59

YouTube takes down 30,000 videos with false vaccine claims

More than 30,000 misleading videos about Covid-19 vaccines have been removed in the last five months , YouTube has said.
The video streaming site banned vaccine misinformation in October and began taking down videos that contradicted authorities such as the World Health Organization or the NHS.
They featured false claims that the vaccine killed people, caused infertility, or contained a secret microchip that would be implanted into recipients.
In the past year, YouTube has removed a total of 800,000 videos for unsubstantiated claims about Covid-19 - covering all aspects of the virus, not just vaccination.
BBC disinformation and social media reporter Marianna Spring says YouTube has generally been "ahead of the curve" in tackling false information, but said there was no doubt that some people were scared off the vaccine before the company started taking action.
And she said committed activists were still using increasingly sophisticated tactics on YouTube to cultivate a following and spread false vaccine claims.

Oxford-AstraZeneca jab can continue to be used - WHO

The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine can continue to be used while an investigation into cases of blood clots is ongoing, the World Health Organization has said.
It comes after countries including Bulgaria, Denmark and Norway paused its use following reports of around 30 cases of "thromboembolic events" - or developing blood clots - in people who had received the vaccine.
The WHO's Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is "carefully assessing" the reports and will make its findings and any changes to current recommendations public immediately, the organisation has said.
It noted that deaths from other causes would continue to occur after vaccination which were not caused by the jab.
The WHO added that more than 268 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered worldwide and no cases of deaths caused by the jab had been found to date.
The European Medicines Agency has also said the vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risks and that there is currently no indication the jab caused the blood clots.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 22:02

Breaking News 

UK records 6,609 Covid cases and 175 deaths

The latest pandemic figures reported by the UK government show continuing falls in the number of cases and deaths.
On Friday, the UK recorded 6,609 new coronavirus cases, and a further 175 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
In the seven days up to 12 March, there were 40,983 new recorded infections, a drop of 3,237 (7.3%) on the number for the previous week.
More than 23 million people in the UK have now received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with 260,809 first doses administered on Thursday.

How is the vaccine rollout going around the world?

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Israel is still leading the way in the vaccination leaderboard, with the UK in second place.
In Israel, which has started relaxing lockdown restrictions, there are already promising signs the vaccines are reducing hospital admissions and deaths as well as community transmission.
We've also got a chart showing which vaccines are being used most widely across the world - with Pfizer/BioNTech just ahead of the Oxford jab.
And we've got a map showing how countries across the world are progressing with their vaccination rollouts.
For more on the vaccination progress around the world, that's here.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 22:08

WHO approves single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The World Health Organisation has added the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to its list of approved vaccines.
The vaccine is set to be a cost-effective alternative to the other vaccines, and can be stored in a refrigerator instead of a freezer.
The UK, US, EU and Canada have already ordered doses, and 500 million doses have also been ordered through the Covax scheme to supply poorer nations.
The Johnson & Johnson jab is the first to be listed by the WHO as just needing a single dose.
The WHO added that the data from large clinical trials shared by the company has shown the vaccine is effective in older populations.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the news but urged governments to work to make sure the vaccines were available and affordable for all.

How are lockdown rules changing across the UK?

Scotland has begun relaxing rules on meeting up outdoors , allowing four people from two households to gather. Wales will follow suit tomorrow .
In England, lockdown will be eased in four stages, with all restrictions possibly lifted from 21 June at the earliest.
Northern Ireland will outline its plans to relax restrictions in the coming weeks.
You can read a full breakdown of all the changes that have been announced so far here.

Number of worldwide cases approaching 120 million

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The number of coronavirus cases worldwide is nearing 120 million. There have been 2.6 million deaths across nearly 200 countries.
Meanwhile, we've got a graph showing how the number of cases is picking up in some European countries.
Earlier this week we reported how several Central European countries were struggling with a new wave of the virus.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 22:10

Life in Scotland 'could be normal by mid-June'

Life in Scotland could be close to normal as early as mid-June, a leading public health expert has said.
Prof Linda Bauld told the BBC she was "very optimistic" most restrictions would be lifted by the summer and perhaps even earlier.
She warned international travel and mass gatherings were unlikely this summer but said the data was heading in the right direction.
Scotland has been in lockdown since 5 January but the first minister has said the country is making progress suppressing the virus.
Today the rules were relaxed to allow four adults from two different households to meet outdoors.
In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said all legal limits on social contact could be lifted as early as 21 June if enough progress is made tackling the virus.
Read more .

Families 'having to isolate for 10 days even if negative'

A leading bio-statistician, Prof Sheila Bird, has raised concerns that lateral flow tests are being taken as complete proof of having coronavirus, without being checked with a second lab test.
She is concerned that the lateral flow tests give false positives, leading to families having to self-isolate unnecessarily.
The lateral flow tests do not need to be sent to a lab and can be done at home, giving a result within minutes, and have been rolled out for schoolchildren.
When taken at home or in workplaces, lateral flow tests can be overruled by a lab test, known as a PCR. But the government has insisted this cannot happen for tests done in school - although it has been unable to explain why.
"The law regulations changed at the end of January and this seems to have given permission for NHS Test and Trace to ignore a PCR negative result and not allow it to overrule a lateral flow positive," said Prof Bird, who is a member of the Royal Statistical Society's Covid-19 taskforce.
"So families who have sought confirmation [and] have a PCR negative are still being obliged to spend 10 days in isolation.
"Personally I think they should submit a yellow card of serious adverse harm to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority."
Read more about the issue here.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 22:13

Covid situation in Brazil 'very concerning' says WHO chief

The state of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil is very concerning and serious action needs to be taken to deal with rising cases and deaths there, the head of the World Health Organization has said.
"Unless serious measures are taken, the upward trend now flooding the health system and becoming more than its capacity will result in more deaths," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
He said all stakeholders should take the situation seriously, adding that neighbouring countries could be affected, Reuters news agency reported.
"The situation is deeply concerning and the measures that should be taken should be as serious as possible," Tedros said.

118 inmates die with Covid in UK prisons, figures suggest

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More than 100 prisoners have died after testing positive for coronavirus over the last year, preliminary figures suggest.
Provisional Ministry of Justice data from 16 March 2020 to 28 February 2021 show 118 prisoners had died after testing positive within 28 days of their death or where it was confirmed postmortem.
Of these, the deaths of 93 inmates were suspected or confirmed to have been caused by coronavirus. The deaths occurred in 54 prisons across England and Wales, the MoJ report said.
Some 14,480 prisoners have tested positive for Covid since the start of the pandemic, in 127 jails. Some 106 of these were child criminals in youth custody.
The prison with the most positive cases so far is HMP Oakwood in Staffordshire, with 468 between March 2020 and January 2021. This peaked this January when 249 were recorded, the figures show.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Mar 12 2021, 22:16

Poker party and gathering with live music raided

Footage has been released by West Midlands Police of officers turning up at a poker party that was breaching lockdown rules.
About 20 fines of £800 each were handed out when officers raided the poker event at a Birmingham pub on 6 March.
The pub is now facing action for licensing breaches.
The previous day, officers arrived to find a party with a buffet, drinks and a four-piece band at an empty shop elsewhere in the city.

What's happened today?

There's been a mix of stories about coronavirus around today. Here's a summary:

  • The weekly coronavirus figures from the Office for National Statistics have given us an insight on how the pandemic is faring in the UK. The number of new cases is falling in England and Wales - but levelling off in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The UK's latest R number, meanwhile, is between 0.6 and 0.8
  • The World Health Organization has defended the Oxford/ AstraZeneca jab, after some countries including Bulgaria, Denmark and Norway suspended it over fears it causes blood clots. There's no evidence of a link, the WHO said
  • People in Wales have heard more details about the plan to ease lockdown. From Saturday, as many as four adults from two households will be allowed to meet up in a private garden, while from Monday hairdressers can open - almost a month earlier than in England. More on the Welsh plan here
  • Meanwhile in Scotland, some rules have further been relaxed earlier than planned. Up to four adults from two different households are now able to meet in any outdoor space, including in private gardens - an increase from two adults from two households. Originally this had not been due to happen before 15 March
  • Organisers who wanted to hold a vigil to remember Sarah Everard, the woman who went missing on Clapham Common but were told they couldn't because of Covid rules lost their court challenge against the ban. But there's a chance the event could still go ahead tomorrow, because the judge left the door open for them to hold talks with police and agree a way forward.

That's it from us

Thank you for following our live coverage today. We'll be back tomorrow with more live updates on the coronavirus throughout the day.

Today's live page was brought to you by: Martha Buckley, Holly Wallis, Joseph Lee, Becky Morton, Georgina Rannard, George Bowden and Francesca Gillett.

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